Law reform group considers if spouse killers should inherit property

Law reform group considers if spouse killers should inherit property

The Law Reform Commission is looking at whether someone who kills their spouse should be allowed to keep their jointly owned property.

It is publishing an issues paper relating to succession law.

The paper is being released in light of the Lillis/Cawley case, after Eamonn Lillis was convicted of the manslaughter of his wife, Celine Cawley, and he claimed he was entitled to their jointly-owned home.

Marie Baker, a Law Reform Commissioner, said the case was treated differently to France, where the couple had other jointly owned property.

"In France, if you unlawfully kill your joint owner, you forfeit the property. There was a case in France that's what happened - he took nothing," she explained.

"In Ireland, the case ran in the High Court, and the effect was he was deemed to hold half of the property in his own right, and the other half on trust for the estate. So he didn't inherit all of it by right of survivorship."

She said the land law that recognises the right to survivors to inherit jointly-owned property is a very old law, and that has to be balanced against the moral outrage expressed by many following the Lillis / Cawley case.


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